Designer of the world's first word processor

Born: April 12, 1925;

Died: December 8, 2018

EVELYN Berezin, who has died aged 93, was a computer scientist who designed the world's first world processor, which went on sale in the early 1970s.

She also had some other remarkable achievements in her career: she developed the first computer system for making airline reservations (one that worked across the United States without a breakdown for more than 10 years); she created a weapons-targeting calculator and she developed gambling terminals for horse racing tracks.

Berezin's word processor was called the Data Secretary and was over 3ft tall. It featured a keyboard, cassette drives, control electronics and a printer and allowed the user to record and play back and edit what they had typed.

Berezin had spotted that some six per cent of all the people in the United States worked as secretaries and believed their job could be made more efficient.

"At the time we started, which was in 1968 to 1969, nobody really had any desk-type computers on which you could write a word-processing program that a secretary would use," she said. "I know that desktop computers seem obvious now but it wasn't so then."

Born in New York, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, Berezin studied physics at New York University before joining the Electronic Computer Corporation in 1951. It was here that she designed her artillery-aiming machine for the US Defence Department.

In the late 1950s she joined Teleregister where she continued to design computers, including computerised banking systems. She also developed her online reservations system for United Airlines. First tested in 1962, it matched customers to available seats and was reported to have a one-second response time and to have worked for 11 years without any central system failures.

Berezin began working on her word processor in 1968 and with two male colleagues founded a new company Redactron to develop it.

She remembered that the launch of the prototype did not go according to plan. It was a dry day and the build-up of static electricity meant the machine could not be started.

“To our horror it was a dry day and the engineers were setting this non-working machine up for our big story,” Berezin said. “Ed Wolf, our head of engineering, brought a full pail of water and without a word to anyone throws the pail of water over the whole thick carpet in the room. The water sank into the carpet, which stayed damp for three or four hours, and the machine worked perfectly.”

Once launched, the machine was a success, with 10,000 of them being sold. Berezin sold the company in 1976, having built it up from nine employees to 500.

In later years, she had various business interests, including the venture capital company Greenhouse Management. She was pre-deceased by her husband, the chemical engineer Israel Wilenitz.